Spike in cases of chronic wasting disease leads Pennsylvania Game Commission to unveil response plan proposal

Spike in cases of chronic wasting disease leads Pennsylvania Game Commission to unveil response plan proposal

Some of the data points about chronic wasting disease almost sound like science fiction. It moves through a deer population via an infectious particle known as a prion, which unlike viruses and bacteria can survive in soil for years.

Once it gets established in a given area, it’s basically impossible to eradicate, and without intervention it can infect as much as half of a given deer herd within a few years.

It’s fatal to deer in all cases, and three Pennsylvania counties already have seen significant numbers of infections.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is aiming to take on the challenge of chronic wasting disease based on a program that has succeeded to some degree in other states. Representatives of the commission unveiled a draft response plan Thursday that would seek to significantly decrease restrictions on the number of deer that hunters can take in target areas.

Paradoxically, by allowing more deer to be harvested, the hope is that the overall population can be saved.

“On average, 350 deer will need to be harvested within each three mile radius to confidently detect Chronic Wasting Disease at a 1 percent infection rate,” Courtney Colley, a chronic wasting disease communication specialist for the commission, said at a news conference Thursday.

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